Gov. Reynolds: Allowing Birth Control Without Prior Prescription Is 'The Right Thing To Do'

Jan 3, 2019

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday she will try to enact a law that would allow Iowans to get birth control pills directly from a pharmacist without seeing a doctor first. She said it's the right thing to do.

“This is an opportunity for us to do a common sense thing that I think needs to be done,” Reynolds said in an interview with Iowa Public Radio. “So I’m hopeful we can have bipartisan support, and we can move this through.”

Reynolds first mentioned the policy at a debate late in her campaign against Democrat Fred Hubbell. It came as a surprise to some, because she signed one of the country’s strictest abortion measures into law in May. That law is currently on hold while a legal challenge plays out.

Reynolds was also part of an administration that rejected federal funding for a family planning program that provides birth control and other health services to low-income Iowans. That program has seen a big drop in participation by providers and patients, but Reynolds rejected the notion that this is an attempt to patch that up.

“I’m not sure how much of an impact such a move will have on addressing the declining population in the state family planning program,” said Jodi Tomlonovic, executive director of the Family Planning Council of Iowa. “However, we are supportive of any actions that will increase access to birth control.”

At least nine states have a similar policy, but there is not a lot of information about how well it works.

Tomlonovic said legislation should address things like training pharmacists to prescribe and dispense birth control pills, referrals for patients with sexually transmitted diseases, and informing people about more effective, longer-term birth control options.

It’s unclear how lawmakers will handle this proposal when the legislative session starts January 14.

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said her caucus is happy to take a look at the proposal, and she wants to make sure women are receiving medication safely.

“I approach this issue as a health care provider, so I want to make sure that we consult with the medical community as we consider this topic,” Upmeyer said.

Democratic Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell of Ames said she appreciates Reynolds making “a small step.”

“Although the option to get birth control pills without a prescription sounds like a good one, I’d like to see the governor include an insurance mandate to make sure it’s covered by insurance,” Wessel-Kroeschell said.

She added the state should also expand access to long-acting forms of birth control that require a doctor’s visit.

Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines has previously tried to pass similar legislation.

“Senate Democrats will need to see the details of the governor’s plan to make sure it will make family planning services more accessible and affordable,” Petersen said.

Senate Republicans did not immediately provide a response Thursday. 

Tune in to Morning Edition on Monday to hear more from IPR's interview with Gov. Reynolds.